Lisa Marion Smith selfie beach San Pancho Mexico

The author on the beach in San Pancho, Mexico.Lisa Marion Smith

  • While looking for a weekend getaway on Mexico’s Pacific coast, my first thought was Puerto Vallarta.

  • But I realized it wasn’t the intimate vibe I wanted. Friends suggested a small surf town: San Pancho

  • I loved the uncrowded beach, fresh fish, and sustainably-minded and locally-owned hotels and shops.

Craving a beach getaway, I wanted to plan a trip to Mexico that would be relatively cheap and easy to reach from my home in Los Angeles.

welcome sign beach san pancho mexico freelance photo

The welcome sign at the beach in San Pancho.Lisa Marion Smith

When I found myself recently dreaming of a Mexican beach getaway, I initially thought Puerto Vallarta seemed like a good choice.

It was a straight-shot flight from my home in Los Angeles and — from what I learned watching “The Love Boat” during my formative years — it was perfect for American tourists.

But the more I researched Puerto Vallarta online, the more I realized I wanted something different. Sure, I’d be able to have my choice of palm tree-lined resorts loaded with amenities and strong Wi-Fi, but the more I looked at Puerto Vallarta’s big hotels online, the more I found myself longing for something a bit more unexpected. I realized I wanted a vacation that consisted of more than a mango margarita with a matching sunset view.

As much as I wanted the ease of a direct flight followed by little to no drive time, I started looking beyond Puerto Vallarta.

Mexican friends pointed me to San Pancho. A little over an hour north from Puerto Vallarta, they told me I’d love its unspoiled natural beauty, commitment to ecotourism, and beach that is a haven for surfers.

I took their advice and it was the best recent travel

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